At places of prayer old
and new
a young me walked
and grazed
with his fingers
The dimples and bumps
of pillars hewn
and curves carved
from rocks
grey with age, mottled
white with wisdom –
the only Wisdom
he learned
in those hallowed spaces
was the stony Silence
that stands and watches.

I was at a Halloween party in a Chelsea bar when I met the Russian/Eastern European girl. I could always recognize one even before I’ve heard them speak. She was not dressed up in any particular costume, but her fetching white halter top was enough to attract the attentions of a pants-less Tom Cruise from ‘Risky Business’ and a plaid-shirted cowboy.

A dance circle had formed on the floor. The organizers were a couple of turtles, viz. Raphael and Donatello. I’m not sure if that’s entirely accurate, because Raphael and Donatello were blonde and were grinding their green shells in a manner that the cowabunga dudes would not have. (Yes, they were American). Meanwhile, the white halter top girl had started dancing with her group of friends. She had placed her purse – the one that women use to hold their plans for world domination – on a side table.

What I found charming was the way she kept glancing at her purse every 30 seconds to see if it was still there. I recognized this as something I did quite a bit when I first came here. I’d see backpacks strewn around the corridors at college, the owners absent, and cringe at the thought of them being stolen. But they never were stolen, and that’s one of the nice things about living in a country where poverty is comfortably out of sight. I kept smiling to myself as she actually stopped dancing a couple of times to come check if the purse was still there.

Some people get homesick from sights and smells. For me it was another FOB making sure she wasn’t looted by a drunk girl or a Winona Ryder klepto, because those were the only kind who could’ve stolen a purse in that swanky New York bar that night.

exterminator notice

Every Friday, Death mocks me. As I walk towards the door of my apartment, I dread the presence of that yellow calling card. And yet there it is, sometimes on the welcome mat, sometimes hung on the doorknob.

My nemesis seems to be from a well-oiled organization, one that cryptically calls itself ‘Maintenance’. Their calling card contains all manner of grisly depictions of murder: on the top right, you see a hangman fixing the noose on the rafters. Next follows a professional gravedigger who not only digs holes but also provides bodies to fill the holes. On the left bottom corner, you see a mode of murder common in apartment complexes such as mine: ‘fixing the gas pipes’. To finish off a perfect full course of assassination, the last graphic depicts finishing off the job, viz. walling my mortal remains in concrete and fresh paint.

But worst of all is my… designated killer. Much in the mold of ‘The Professional’ – he is a consummate expert at what he does. And he does all that with a heart of gold. He calls himself the ‘Exterminator’ — ridding the world of pestilential creatures one at a time. Like a true hunter, he experiences remorse at what he does. Everytime I see the yellow card, two shivers run through my spine — one for my impending finis, and one in recognition of The Exterminator’s sardonic wit. Which killee would not be shaken by such words as that of The Exterminator – “Sorry I miss you!”!?

Every Friday I see the same words. I open the door of my apartment with anticipation. The door does not explode outward in a ball of flame. I am alive, and life is good… until next weekend, that is.

I got more hits today than I get in a whole year. All pointing fingers pointed to TheMaanga but I didn’t see anything untoward. At the end of the day, I tried the brilliant tactic of hitting the ‘Refresh’ button.

Mostly, I have nothing to say. The entirety of human thought could probably be encapsulated in less than 20 words. The rest is … unnecessary. But here they are anyway; the more I puked, the more I learnt.

I take the HBLR to work. If you live and work on the Jersey shore across Manhattan, it is the best commute possible. The light rail runs nearly 24 hours, quite frequent and less crowded than any other form of public transportation in New Jersey. But there’s a peculiar downside to the light rail that might be just my own imagination.

Contrary to the light rail’s simple, elegant lines and aesthetics, the doors open and close like a medieval fortress. The sliding doors of the rail are unlike any elevator doors or even the New York subway trains; they are unforgiving of tardiness. These simply won’t pull back if you put any available limb in between them to prevent them from closing. Much like Jersey Citizens’ noted surliness, they will simply stop trying to crush your arm and wait there until you give them a firm push backward. The driver, very much an extension of the light rail, will voice through the microphone in a monotone, “Please do not try to enter while the doors are closing”.

But that’s not my problem with the sliding doors. The opening starts a deep KADAK that rumbles in a deep bass tone, and then the doors slide open with a noisy whirr. And everytime there’s a KADAK, my left ear drum experience a short stabbing pain. This is not a random occurrence but happens every single day. The noise gets my left ear even if I have my mp3 player’s headphones on.

I was reading today on /. about a device that emits ultrasonic frequencies inaudible to older people but audible and annoying to teenagers. Could there be a counterpart to this frequency at the other end of the spectrum? Should I just wait for the sliding doors of the Star Trek future that open with nary a whisper?

I was 14 when I first heard the remix of the song “Itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow polka dot bikini” on MTV. The lyrics were simple, but it didn’t matter; the refrain was so catchy you couldn’t help sing along.

It was the summer vacation and we used to play table tennis at The Club. There were two tables: A ‘Stag’ for the more experienced players, and a generic, rickety one stored in a 11’X11′ room for the amateurs. Only four could play on the superior table, and the other was reserved for the hordes of bored teenagers who didn’t have enough skills for the better one.

The only way to give everybody a chance on the bad table was to play ‘Americans’. The way it worked was everyone to go round and round the table, hitting the ball back and forth until one missed it and was ejected from the circle. There were cabals and conspiracies to eject certain players, but that’s a whole different story.

Now imagine 30 hormone-filled boys going around a table that barely left any space in a dingy room on a hot April day, chanting “Iiiiit waaaas aaaan itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini”; it was religious. The Masai tribe might have had its initiation for boy-men around a fire with ashes and embers flying about, but this was our own initiation; to boldly shout a taboo word instead of a war-cry, and waving our cheap TT bats instead of blood-tipped spears.

Losing a room-mate is a lot like going through a divorce: Silence fills your apartment, and half the furniture disappears. I probably missed his 27-inch flatscreen TV more than my ex-roomie, so I went to Walmart to get me a decent-size flat-screen of my own. (‘Decent-size’ here meaning ‘not portable-size’) I decided to get a 20-inch and found that the brands that matter the most in Walmart — the Durabrands, the Emersons and the Magnavoxes — were completely sold out. The salesperson told me that a shipment was due that very evening and I was amazed at how quickly Walmart responds to customer demand.

I remembered someone posting on /. about Walmart’s data-mining on crisis-shopping. I googled for it and found this blog on Gartner:

For example, in between the two Florida hurricanes of last year, Wal-Mart analyzed which products consumers purchased. With Hurricane Frances not yet arrived, Wal-Mart analyzed sales data from Hurricane Charlie to get a better sense of what consumers would need for Frances. In addition to the usual items such as flashlights, Wal-Mart discovered that Pop-Tarts were a big seller.

It’s surprising what you can deduce from good statistics; makes me want to make ‘Freakonomics‘ my next read.